THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Ukraine insisted Tuesday that the United Nations’ highest court has jurisdiction to hear a case alleging that Moscow abused the genocide convention to justify launching its devastating invasion last year.
Kyiv wants judges at the International Court of Justice to order Russia to halt its attacks and pay reparations. But it appears unlikely Moscow would comply. Russia has flouted a binding interim order issued by the court in March last year to end its invasion.
“Russia’s defiance is also an attack on this court’s authority. Every missile that Russia fires at our cities, it fires in defiance of this court,” the leader of Ukraine’s legal team, Anton Korynevych, told the 16-judge panel.
Kyiv filed the case shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. It argues that the attack was based on false claims of acts of genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine.
“Russia is waging war against my country in the name of this terrible lie that Ukraine is committing genocide against its own people,” Korynevych said.
“This lie is Russia’s pretext for aggression and conquest. Russia has presented no credible evidence. It cannot. In reality, Russia has turned the Genocide Convention on its head.”
Russia outlined its objections to the case on Monday, with the leader of Moscow’s legal team, Gennady Kuzmin, calling it “hopelessly flawed and at odds with the longstanding jurisprudence of this court.”
Ukraine’s case is based on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which both Kyiv and Moscow have ratified. The convention includes a provision that nations which have a dispute based on its provisions can take that dispute to the World Court. Russia denies that there is a dispute, a position Ukraine rejects.
Another lawyer for Ukraine, Marney Cheek, told judges that Russia’s preparations for its invasion last year did not only include its massive troop buildup along Ukraine’s borders. “It also included eight years of building a sham justification for Putin’s so-called special military operation,” she said.
The International Court of Justice hears disputes between nations, unlike the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals criminally responsible for offenses including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In March, the ICC issued a war crimes arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of responsibility for the abduction of Ukrainian children.
In an unprecedented show of international solidarity, 32 of Ukraine’s allies will make statements Wednesday in support of Kyiv’s legal arguments.
The court’s panel of international judges will likely take weeks or months to reach a decision on whether or not the case can proceed. If it does, a final ruling is likely years away.
After Ukraine wrapped up its arguments, Korynevych told reporters that “all the preliminary objections filed by the Russian Federation must be dismissed and … the court shall proceed to listening to this case on the merits.”
In his opening statement, Korynevych outlined what is at stake for his country, telling judges that “573 days ago, Russia launched a brutal, full scale military assault on Ukraine. This is a war of annihilation. Russia denies the very existence of the Ukrainian people. And wants to wipe us off the map.”